What is often labeled the worst school facility in Richmond could soon come tumbling down.
The city School Board on Monday approved a plan to demolish the existing George Mason Elementary School. The poor condition of the school almost led to its closure two years ago. Instead, the school remains open and is being rebuilt on the same 28th Street site.
The board voted 7-1 to demolish the current building in favor of adding more amenities at the school.
“We’re not going to have enough space for the athletic fields or the tennis courts or the basketball courts or some of the play areas that we have planned so we really need to demolish the building,” said Darin Simmons, the school system’s chief operating officer.
Kenya Gibson, who represents the city’s 3rd District, was the lone vote against, citing a desire to have had the division look at keeping the old building as part of the new school campus.
“This is a city that’s all about its history so I think that it’s really a shame that we didn’t explore whether or not it could have been implemented,” she said.
The school division opted to model its three new schools - Mason, E.S.H. Greene Elementary and a new middle school on Hull Street Road - after schools in Suffolk as an attempt to drive down costs.
Still, the cost has climbed from an initial estimate of $110 million to $146 million. The schools are being built with $150 million generated from raising the city's meals tax.
Superintendent Jason Kamras said the decision to demolish the school will not add any additional costs.
The plan must now be reviewed by Richmond’s Committee for Architectural Review, the city’s official history preservation body.